Car Reviews

2016 Mazda MX-5 2.0L review – potential owner’s views

We asked a bunch of car owners to spend the day playing with the new 2016 Mazda MX-5, here’s what they had to say…

In a nutshell: The MX-5 always has, and still does epitomise the very spirit of lightweight, carefree open-topped motoring.

2016 MAZDA MX-5 ND 2.0-LITRE ROADSTER GT manual

PRICE from $37,550 (plus ORC) as tested $42,637.93 ONROAD; WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY Euro NCAP 4-StAR (ANCAP TO COME); ENGINE 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol Power 118 kW @ 6000 rpm Torque 200 Nm @ 4800 rpm; TRANSMISSION six-speed manual; BODY 3.92m (L); 1.74m (W); 1.23m (H); WEIGHT 1033 kg (manual roadster); THIRST 6.9L/100km (95 RON premium unleaded, combined)

We’ve got a comprehensive launch-based review of the MX-5 2.0L here, and a review of the 1.5L here. This time we had the 2.0L for a week.

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The base model is the Roadster, and this is the top-spec GT (read more on the differences in our full review). This car has two additions to the standard GT trim; the bodykit ($2,657.93 fitted), and what you can’t see are interior mats ($160). Together with black alloy wheels (not fitted to our test car) the bodykit forms the Kuroi Sports Pack ($3,931.61 fitted).

Given the initial review covered the car pretty comprehensively we decided to see what a few car enthusiasts thought of Mazda’s new roadster:

Ralph – Morgan V8 owner

Ralph took the car up, down and around some of his favourite tight’n’twisty back roads, and was an immediate convert saying the car was “lot of fun”, “easy to drive, forgiving”. He was impressed with the engine, noting that there was “amazing torque for a two-litre, did well in sixth to lug up hills”.  The praise continued with “great balance”, “comfort not bad, good suspension, and little noise” (note – this test did not involve freeway cruising).   Ralph was also a fan of the “amazing clutch and gearshift” and very much seemed to be enjoying himself on the drive.

So it was a surprise when he said the MX-5 was “not a sportscar” – by which he means his 860kg, V8-powered Morgan is a sportscar and the MX-5 doesn’t come close to it. I see the point but disagree, and if we measure the ratio of smile to face on Ralph’s dial then his body may disagree with his mouth!

Other comments included the exhaust being “a bit lame”, the car was deemed “nice, sexy, not a girlie car” and he noted the “roof was very easy to operate”. Anything to improve? “Would like a digital speedometer” was about it, and what he liked best was “the fun, very enjoyable drive”. In summary, Ralph reckons that “Mazda is on a winner”.

Read more about Morgans here.

Peter W – sold an 86 and 911 for a Golf R

Peter said the MX-5 “makes me feel 20 years younger”, and it “was his dream car at uni”. He reckons that “being in a convertible is special”, and in the MX-5 there’s “a long bonnet, you can see wheelarches, you can feel the road without looking and that’s what a sportscar should be about.” Peter says the MX-5 has “really good handling, and a great suspension with a balance between damping and firmness”.  So impressed was Peter he began to get a dreamy look in his eyes and waxed poetic, talking about a “heavenly gearshift” and “creamy engine”, noting “when you wring it out it does not have any harshness”, and ending his reverie with “nirvana”.

Peter is also a fan of the styling saying it’s “beautiful, love the looks. It’s got the modern curvy aggressive look” and appreciates the “high quality interior”. Coming from an 86 he was “delightfully surprised it had auto wipers and auto lights” too.

In contrast to Ralph he reckons the “exhaust was sporty enough” and when asked for an improvement point said “that’s a tough one” and drifted into a reverential silence. An easier question was what he liked best and that was “how it made me feel, the MX-5 gave me a feeling of freedom, youth and fun.”

In an unrelated note apparently there are three well-behaved children up for adoption now, and can be delivered in a new Golf R.

Juliette – BRZ owner and Japanese car lover

Juliette writes:

The MX-5 is a surprising package. A fun, yet liveable toy car. I say this purely for lack of passenger and storage space, because otherwise it would be a completely useable daily driver for anyone with access to something bigger when people or gear need to be transported. The ride is remarkably compliant. I was expecting a harsh ride being a small Japanese sportscar, in keeping with the way proper Japanese sportscars (not luxury tourers) are sprung and dampered. But the MX-5 rides well over rough, corrugated and uneven roads which I know to upset my own BRZ. No bone-jarring thumps, bump-steer or annoying rattles. The ride is comfortable without compromising the handling too adversely, even if the initial shock of the larger than expected amount of body roll takes you by surprise. Personally I’d prefer a bit less body roll and be comfortable with sacrificing some bump absorbance but after a while it lends the car its own dash of character and personality. The reason I found it so noticeable on drives is the angle at which the beautiful flared front fenders stare out over the bonnet pointed ever more skyward the more aggressive the turn really pronouncing the lean.

The engine may not be the most powerful in its class but it feels plenty quick enough at road legal speeds with excellent gear ratios and immediate acceleration. Giving the throttle a squeeze in any gear is a pleasure and the sensation of speed is really intensified by the combination of low ride height, close gears and immediate throttle response. The clutch and shifter operation are just perfect – you could not want for any better combination. The clutch is easy and light, the gearbox incredibly precise. It’s very difficult to mis-shift; every gear is just a short, precise, quick, very mechanical-feeling throw away.

I felt the ‘soft padding’ on the centre area wasn’t quite soft enough to rest my elbow on constantly. I did struggle with the pedal placement in sneakers and found the accelerator and brake to be a little too close together for my preference. Maybe some thinner-soled shoes may have helped the situation. There’s a bit of a lip in the foot well which the back of the sole of my sneakers tended to get caught on as well – not ideal. Pre-emptive shoe choice might be a consideration for some drivers. I also felt that the footrest sat a little too close to the clutch. 

The seats themselves are great, nice and supportive, with a surprising and pleasing touch to have the speakers in the integrated headrests. Where they fall over is lack of adjustability. I had no issues fitting into the car at 5ft 8in tall but even then with the limited adjustment options I never got myself into a completely comfortable driving position, particularly on longer drives. Maybe more time spent adjusting the seats would have paid off, but I elected to leave it alone after 5 minutes of trying to make myself as comfortable as I am in the BRZ. The steering wheel is only tilt adjustable which isn’t a problem for me but may be for other drivers.

Visibility isn’t great. The mirrors are small, very little can be seen out of the rear window with the roof up but slightly better with the roof down although you’re still contending with the headrests and roll protection obscuring much of your rear view. Being seated so low doesn’t help either, and I would opt-in the reversing camera accessory if I was purchasing the car. The dials on the instrument cluster are reasonably easy to read but a digital speedo in addition to the analogue would have been nice. The infotainment unit isn’t great – I don’t enjoy anything that requires me to look down and away from the screen itself to operate multiple dials and buttons for multiple functions. It also doesn’t stow away and sits permanently fixed on the top of the dash. I otherwise ignored it once radio and Bluetooth functions were set up. I like the dials and buttons for HVAC controls – the way it should be – less distractions as a driver.

Onto the styling and I think Mazda have made a great looking car. I’m not sold on the rear end, I don’t feel it has the same edgy styling as the remainder of the car but it might be something in time that I warm to. The headlights are really distinctive, you cannot miss a new MX-5 coming up behind you in traffic and it makes the car look quite menacing. The interior is beautiful too. A feeling of sportiness with class, and the body coloured panels atop the interior door panels really set it off.

Would I buy one given what I currently drive? That’s really hard to answer, and there’d only be a few small things holding me back. Firstly – value for money, that’s where the BRZ/86 wins the upper hand with superior practicality, and what I feel is slightly better handling. Otherwise it is a car I could get into every day, knowing that it’d put a smile on my face every drive.

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David – Porsche enthusiast, M5 owner, official Tall Person 
 
David is 6ft 2in tall so he approached the MX-5 with a touch of concern. Yet just seconds after pulling away he declared that he was “quite enjoying this”, and under acceleration smiled his way through saying the car “has a little bit of grunt…not a lot”, and added that the exhaust was “quite nice”. The next several minutes were mostly spent at high revs and punctuated by David saying “this is fun” or words to that effect, and praising the steering wheel, the “nippiness” and the “nice and light clutch”.
 
But the MX-5 isn’t perfect for David, because the car is too small for him. Particular problems were a lack of steering wheel reach adjustment, head touching the roof and using the sunvisor in any position renders him blind.  He had some criticisms of the handling and design too, noting “there’s quite a bit of body roll”, and reckons the car as a result feels “sloppy”. He also found the digital instrument and information display on the left complex and hard to read, describing it as a “mess”. Yet in summary – “for a small person this would be awesome.”
 
Jeff – X-Trail owner if not lover
 
Jeff’s major commuting vehicle is a pushbike, but he does appreciate a good car so jumped at the chance to drive the MX-5. He reports that it’s “very easy to drive, comfortable, everything just felt good”. He enjoyed the drive “because it’s a novelty. Because I was driving it for fun, didn’t need to be anywhere or take kids somewhere. You’re limited to carry anything so it’s all about pleasure.” Other points of praise were the visibility, being able to see the wheelarches in front, and he said he “wasn’t embarrassed to drive”, noting that “it’s not as much as a showoff as a Porsche convertible, [the MX-5 is] a people’s car.”  Power? “Umm…very acceptable”.
 
When asked what he didn’t like there was a huge pause. Then: “The mirrors are a fraction small, but small car, small mirrors, you’re meant to be going forwards not backwards! Missed a reversing camera. Parkbrake just a bit too high. Would have liked an easier to read speedo.” And that was it. Summary for Jeff – “The MX-5 has a good name, I’d be happy to have one in my driveway.”
 
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Peter B – another tall person, owns two 911s, previously owned NA and NB MX-5s
 
Peter writes:
 
What a brilliant little car! 
(The above text needs to be in BOLD, UNDERLINE, and ITALICIZED). It really puts a smile on your dial!

Best $40k (yep, I’d go for the full package) fun car purchase on the market – by far.

Four positives:
#1: Fantastic gearbox. Rifle bolt precision, no doubt about which gear you’re in, well spaced gears (the weight loss program also helps).
#2: Great handling – absorbs bumps really well. Handles like I remember the NA handling :-))
#3: Great engine (sounds good, pulls hard, looks great).
#4: CUTE!

Four negatives:
#1: That lump: On the LHS of the driver’s foot well, there is a large intrusion into the foot well. I’m guessing the car was probably designed as a LHD car.
#2: The handbrake lever: My left knee constantly fouling the handbrake.

#3: Rearview: The interior rear view mirror is too big / it shows lots of headrest / roll bar, and the wind blocker needs to be glass.
#4: That display: The multifunction display needs to be able to be folded away – it spoils the look and frankly, I wouldn’t use the damn thing.

Overall, a better car than either of the two NAs and the NB that I enjoyed owning from 1994 to 2006. I do however genuinely think that there is ever-so-slightly less room in the cockpit… I’m talking minimal difference. The driver’s seat should be able to drop an additional cm or so, the steering wheel should be able to be adjusted up an additional cm or so.
The boot, although deeper, also doesn’t look as large as I remember from the NA and NB. All this is minor though.

 
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Greg – Mazda fan, sim racing supremo, ex mechanic
 
Greg writes:
 
The drive was more than I expected. As a Mazda fan I was quite surprised to “feel” that “Mazda” vibe on a normal drive doing the speed limit. 
 
My drive went for about an hour around the suburbs so I can only give you a basic idea of what I got from that one hour. Put it this way though, I didn’t want the test drive to end.
 
I really enjoyed the feedback from the car, steering was direct and responsive to the smallest inputs. Driving position was comfortable, mind you, I am only 5ft 10in so I can imagine a taller person not being as comfortable as myself.
 
Vision out the back window wasn’t anything to rave about but I understand that some compromises have to be made in a Roadster of this size, so as long as you keep this in mind you can deal with it.  
 
The drivetrain is what I love most about this car, it just screams Mazda. The clutch is a joy to use along with the shifting of gears, very enjoyable. It took me back to the old days of owning my old 323 hatchback in the sense that it wasn’t a hard car to drive, it took everything I gave it and rarely felt like I was pushing it too hard. A track day in this MX-5 would be something I would never forget for sure.
 
Unfortunately, I cannot compare this car to the older versions as I never drove them, but I did get out of the car feeling satisfied. I heard there was a lot of body roll but I didn’t really feel this to impact the handling. To me it felt pretty grounded and had good stance on the road. 
 
The suspension was very comfy. I tried some bumpy roads that I know well and none of them yelled “don’t drive me!” or “slow down!”.
 
The engine and exhaust…well… I really loved squeezing that throttle, plenty of punch in this little white monster in all gears. I found myself constantly watching the speedo and I had to restrain myself from squeezing that pedal on suburban roads. The standard exhaust system seemed just right, it had a nice little note, I feel Mazda have tuned it with just the right amount of back pressure to give it a note whilst not making it too loud. But of course there will be people who will modify the exhaust system due to personal preference, and that is their choice, if it was mine though, I would leave it standard as I enjoyed the engine and pipe music.
 
Before I drove the car, of course, I lifted the bonnet. Was pleasantly surprised to see what looked like the older versions of a Mazda engine in there. No fancy covers made to look like an Audi or euro car. Everything looks like it is easy to access and workable. I did notice a cut out section behind the strut towers on both sides which said that Mazda have actually thought about the mechanic for once. Nice to see. This gives you some access to the bottom of the brake booster and brake lines once the inner wheel guard is removed. Another surprise.
 
Interior. All I can say here is it has a great finish and everything is very functional. Nice cup holders!!! I was expecting to see some sort of digital speedo but wasn’t bothered by the analog speedo. However, the angle of the speedo I did find annoying. What looked like 60km/h was actually 55ish, but this could also save you from dealing with Civic Compliance Victoria which I believe to be a good thing. An okay size boot for this size of car, not fantastic but another compromise I guess. 
 
The body. I couldnt stop taking photos, a nice looking little car, looks a lot like the BMW Z4 but I would say as a whole, being a Mazda, it would be a lot more reliable. Really nice lines on this car, finished well. I loved the little shaping behind the side indicators, a nice touch of designing. 
 
Handling. Driving on suburban roads was a pleasure. There are not enough Great Ocean Roads around here to enjoy the full feel of what this car could do but I enjoyed every corner and wanted more on the exits. Would have loved to take this car for a drive around Mount Dandenong as those roads truly test a cars characteristics.
 
I have been thinking about what I hate about it and really there isn’t anything to be completely honest. It was just a joy to drive. If I had $40k I would definitely buy one.
 
I am curious to see the difference between this model and the base model with a 1.5L. The 2.0L had more than enough power I felt. The pedals were small and close together. My shoes were a little too wide for heel and toeing so with different footwear it would be interesting to have another go.  
 
All in all, I think I would be a pretty happy customer if I bought one. 
 
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Living with the MX-5 for a week: Robert Pepper

We’ve already covered the MX-5 in detail during the launch, so this is a view on the car as a daily driver:

A car launch is usually a hurried affair, so it’s good to spend some quality time with a car in your driveway.

The MX-5 is very much a usable daily-drive sportscar, provided all you want to do is move yourself. It is very agile, nippy, small and easy to maneuver, making every drive a delight. It is true fun on public roads at low speeds in ways that more powerful, faster, heavier cars cannot possibly match.

The soft suspension deals very well with speedbumps and driveways, it’s not too low so it scrapes everywhere, the interior design is premium enough to be enjoyable and make you feel like you’re driving something special. The soft-top roof is very easy to flick up and down too, easily operated by the passenger or the driver.

Yet the MX-5 is compromised as a practical car, but this isn’t really a criticism, because it’s a tiny and light convertible and that means it can’t be good at everything. But you do need to know what you’re letting yourself in for.

First up is space. There’s no glovebox, a tiny centre storage compartment that is too small for a modern phone, and no door pockets. There is a centre lockable cubby box behind the seats, but that’s hard to get to. In it you could store a few small items – phones, booklets and the like and even sunglasses, because there’s nowhere else to stash the sunnies, especially if they’re in a case. There’s limited room behind the seats for long thin items. One hidden area for storage, sort of, is the shelf area behind the seats just under the rear window, but that disappears when the top is down and you can’t secure anything there.

The boot is tiny too, wouldn’t take a week’s heavy shopping for two people with occasional visitors, and especially not if you’re loading up with a slab or a case of wine. Not that you’ll mind extra trips in the MX-5.

The next issue is also size related. I am 182cm tall (6 feet) and that is about as tall as you want to be if you will own an MX-5. The steering wheel is not reach-adjustable, and the seat is not height-adjustable – there is a dial, but that just changes the height of the front part of the seat only. You cannot recline the seats very far back either. As it is, I find the gearshift just a little bit too close to me, and the top of a windscreen should ideally be a bit further away. And, I cannot wear a helmet inside the MX-5 as I simply don’t fit.

So here’s the summary – the MX-5 is a truly delightful little car that will deliver you pleasure every time you look at it let alone drive it, be that on a lazy Sunday morning errand to the shops or pulse-quickening thrills on the backroads. Just be aware that the small size doesn’t come without compromise.

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Aus Martin
Aus Martin
4 years ago

Summary a great / fun drive of an MX-5 but needs to have the following STANDARD:
Reverse camera, digital speedo HUD, fold or slide away center screen and optionally for some 🙂 The new fold away hard top roof – soon to be revealed at this years 2016 New York Auto show!

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper